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Healthier Food for the Masses featuring Erin Baker, Erin Baker’s Wholesome Baked Goods

President and Founder of Erin Baker’s Wholesome Baked Goods

In this episode of the Gooder Podcast, host Diana Fryc is joined by Erin Baker, President and Founder of Erin Baker’s Wholesome Baked Goods, to discuss how she is offering a better-for-you breakfast for everybody. Erin tells the story of starting the company, how she is helping struggling youth in the Boys & Girls Clubs, and why she is passionate about ingredient integrity.

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Key Takeaways

    • Erin Baker shares how she started changing breakfast one oatmeal cookie at a time

    • Staying laser-focused on your mission

    • Why ingredient integrity matters

    • The truth about “natural” flavoring

    • Why does controlling the manufacturing matter to Erin?

    • How Erin has become a mother to hundreds of kids by donating food and books to the Boys & Girls Club

    • Staying motivated through challenging times

    • Advice for entrepreneurs: if you’re not bursting with joy over what you’re pursuing, it’ll be hard to maintain long-term

    • What would Erin like to change about the food industry?

Quotes

Chapters

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Transcript

Intro 0:05

Welcome to the Gooder Podcast where we talk with powerhouse women in CPG about their journeys to success. This episode is sponsored by Retail Voodoo. A brand development firm guiding mission driven consumer brands to attract new and passionate consumer base crush their categories through growth and innovation and magnify their social and environmental impact. If your brand is in need of brand positioning, package design or marketing activation, we are here to help. You can find more information at www.retail-voodoo.com.

Diana Fryc 0:43

Hello, Diana Fryc here I’m the host of the Gooder Podcast where I get to talk with a powerhouse women in the food, beverage and wellness categories about their journeys to success and their insights on the industry. Thanks for joining us today. Really quick. This episode is brought to you by Retail Voodoo. Retail Voodoo is a brand development firm. Our clients include those like Starbucks kind, Rei, PepsiCo high key, and many other market leaders. We provide strategic brand and design services for these leading brands. And if your goal is to increase market share, drive growth or disrupt the marketplace with new and innovative ideas, give us a call and let’s talk. You can learn more about Retail Voodoo at retail-voodoo.com. Or you can just email me at info@retail-voodoo.com. Well today I’m excited to introduce Miss Erin Baker, who is the President and Founder of Erin Baker’s Wholesome Baked Goods. For over 29 years, Erin has been baking breakfast foods utilizing nutrient dense ingredients from the northwest corner of Washington State, making over 30,000 Breakfast cookies per day Erin leads a team committed to making real food with real ingredients for real families. In addition to making these amazing healthy meals because they are meals. Erin’s team has been donating 10,000 Breakfast cookies a month to the Boys and Girls Clubs in western Washington providing much needed healthy snacks with a whopping total of just probably just over 975,000 Breakfast cookies to date. We’ll probably talk about that in a little bit. But before we start our interview, I do want to do a quick shout out to Kate, mutual friend of Kate Ruffing a mutual friend of Erin and eyes who introduced us. Kate is with Flashpoint Strategy. I interviewed her early early on. And just a reminder Flashpoint strategy is a business consultancy, working with brands in the areas of innovation and business operations and marketing for food and beverage consumer packaged goods. You can find out more about what she’s up to now at Flashpointstrategy.com and Thanks, Kate, for the introduction. I think Erin and I have found ourselves to be kindred spirits. Do we have? Yeah, well, Hello,

Diana Fryc 3:06

Miss Erin. Hello, hello.

Erin Baker 3:07

Hello. I’m awesome. It’s Friday and I’m talking to you. So it’s it’s a good day.

Diana Fryc 3:12

Nice. Nice now. Okay, so I said you’re coming from the northwest corner of Washington State, which is a weird thing to say if anybody knows what the shape of Washington state is, but you’re in Bellingham, correct.

Erin Baker 3:23

Right. Bellingham just about 20 minutes from the Canadian border,

Diana Fryc 3:26

just from the Canadian border. Yeah. You guys have really been challenged with weather conditions in the last couple of weeks. How are things going up there right now?

Erin Baker 3:36

It’s been a crazy. Yeah. So we had floods in November. And that was a very interesting, you know, climate event where it was so warm that a lot of snowpack melted, well swell the rivers. And, you know, the rivers jumped the banks in. I mean, even in downtown, as people saw, there were some crazy videos of the downtown being flooded. And then we had like, I mean, the winter storm here over Christmas was epic at my house out in the county. The coldest night was 18. Below the low really blows era. And I have a horse outside. Oh my gosh. Yeah, it was crazy. So it was a lot of work. A lot of carrying buckets. Because yeah, you know, things were frozen. And yeah, but it was it was magical. And beautiful. Yeah. Oh, I bet hold. But were you were bouncing back. And then

Diana Fryc 4:27

you guys. Then on the heels of that you had another round of flooding, right? Well, it snowed. And then you have the sheet of ice, like every place here in Seattle. And then you had flooding again. Right?

Erin Baker 4:38

It’s flooding now. I mean, it’s just Oh, yeah, a couple days ago. Yeah. So it’s, you know, it’s an interesting thing when life throws really extraordinary events at you at a constant pace. You’re just you get really agile and dynamic.

Diana Fryc 4:53

Yeah, we’re gonna talk a little bit about that today. Yeah, well, before we get into all that Those details let’s just talk about Erin Baker’s brands like talk tell us, why does the brand exist?

Erin Baker 5:08

The brand exists to bring truly healthy food to, to the masses. That’s always been my goal. You know, to make food that would I would eat myself to make clean foods to make clean food that people can eat on the go, Hmm, because nobody slowing down. I mean, when I when I developed the breakfast cookie, 29 years ago, I read a factoid and 45 million Americans were not eating breakfast in 1994 Oh, my God. So, you know, I’m sure that’s increased, you know, substantially just with the population increasing. And then of course, people just, you know, no one’s sitting down at the breakfast table anymore. I mean, maybe in the last couple of years, which I’ll touch on that point as well. Yeah. I want people to, you know, the most important thing is for people to be connected to their food. So I want people to make their own breakfast, that’s not going to hurt my business, it’s actually going to help them identify that what they’re holding in their hand is something that they could have baked at home. So yeah, just to get truly honestly healthy food out to the masses.

Diana Fryc 6:14

And remind me I know your breakfast cookie is the big, that’s the big kahuna, but we also have granola and yeah,

Erin Baker 6:22

yeah, we have granola and then we have I started a another better for you might have cookies called the better cookie. And right now we have a paleo gluten free grain free vegan cookie. Couple of flavors. Yes. So I’m using ingredients like coconut oil, nut butters, cassava flour, you know, apple cider vinegar for leavener just really clean, so clean, and just delicious, nutrient dense. And kind of a workhorse like the breakfast cookie. You can crumble them up and use them for you know, cheese crate crust, or you can put them in you know, there’s just so many different things you can do with them. So, granola let’s not forget about granola. Granola is one of our workhorses. You can see behind me, we make about 15 different types of granola. And, you know, it’s everywhere from it’s in foodservice, it’s on airplanes, it’s in grocery stores. And in the 12 ounce bags, it’s in bulk section. So while the breakfast cookie is was our, you know, was was the star of the show for many, many years. Granola has been an incredible ride for us as well. And I developed granola in 2003, just when bear naked who just disrupted that whole category, right? So about six months after they launched. And you know, they were they were at the same trade shows that I was and I was like, I have oats. If oil is sugar, I can do that. Yeah, yeah. Well, that’s

Diana Fryc 7:51

a really I always feel like granola is a has a low barrier to entry. But as an IT wine extension for something as amazing as what you’ve got going on, that’s a no brainer, especially when you can produce it at the quality that you guys are doing.

Erin Baker 8:05

Absolutely. And we are we are very, very unique in the industry in terms of manufacturing our own food we make to order which is also unheard of. Yeah, unheard of. Yeah. And what I want Diana is when you go buy a bag of my like granola, or one of my breakfast cookies, you’re gonna say, Wow, this tastes so much better. Why? Because it was baked, probably within four months maximum to the shelf life most most, you know, foodstuffs that people are eating out there. You know, it could be anywhere from, you know, five months to the 12 months. So Gotcha. You know, there’s lots of lots of tricks of the trade out there to kind of hide the fact that food is degrading. So right, we go to great lengths to make sure that the food that you’re eating is fresh as it can possibly be even though it’s center store,

Diana Fryc 8:56

right? Okay, and you have a lot and we’re going to talk a little bit about how you have your operation set up in order to do that in just a minute. Now, I do want to go back to the beginning, because when you told me about like, the the when you first started, that was a really fun story. Everybody’s Genesis story is pretty great. But why don’t you tell us? Like what, what was that? What inspired it? And what were you doing at the time to make this thing happen?

Erin Baker 9:21

Yeah. We’ll have to kind of go back a little bit a little bit earlier into my early teens. So I had moved from Orcas Island to the San Francisco Bay Area, which was a huge like, you know, it was awesome. I was like, yes, yeah, but this island. My mom had retail stores on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. And so we would go to work with her on the weekends. And she was like, This is how you run small business. Like, I understood the concept. I come from entrepreneurs, so I was just like, Okay, we go and we buy stuff. Yes, late beautifully Mark, we mark it up and cover overhead leftover is what we make. So at that same time, I discovered Mrs. Fields cookies. Oh, yes. The original the Oh, yes. Before she sold Yes, way before when she was just opening all of our little cookie shops all over the place. And I was just, they were amazing cookies, you know, they throw them up on the scale and they sold them by the ounce, you know, and they were just like, loaded. I read anyway, I was so inspired by, you know, I was looking at my mom’s store. And I’m like, Okay, this is my mom is limited here. Because basically, the conversation was always like, why are we not busy? Or why are we busy? Right? So right blur at the ballgame, or people are barbecuing or it’s nice weather or whatever. And like, I don’t want to be limited by foot traffic. Right? I want. I want to go big. Right? So the cookie thing? I don’t know. I didn’t connect with them. But I’ll tell you when I connected it later, but I was so enthralled with watching people and the joy that was happening when they walk up to that misfields County cookie, you know, it was just like, people were pumped, and so is i. Yes. So, um, fast forward. I’m in my late teens, early 20s. I worked for a restaurant group in San Francisco Bay area called the real Restaurant Group. And they were like, you know, super hot to trot. They had like seven restaurants, you know, a couple in Napa and Sonoma. Couple in the city couple in Orange County. You know, they were totally in like Alice Waters shaping these people. Yeah. It was like California cuisine movement. Yes. Yeah, mid mid, you know, mid 80s, early 90s. And so I went to work for this Restaurant Group, just waiting tables. But it was an incredible experience, because they were they were just meticulous. And we learned everything we learned back to the house. We were in front of the house. Yes. All about the food. You know, the wineries educated us. I mean, it was such an incredible experience. And then I fell more in love with the magic that happens when people share meals and food together. It’s like one of the oldest ways in the world for us to connect and to make an impact each other. Right. So but I was also like, oh, restaurant work,

Diana Fryc 12:11

I’m gonna be here. Like, that’s hard. It’s hard work. You

Erin Baker 12:14

know her downstream? No, I didn’t I just it just didn’t resonate. Right. So So, um, fast forward a couple years later, I got an opportunity to come back to Washington and run a bed and breakfast on Whidbey Island. Okay. And, and I thought, okay, I can, you know, make food here, I can really, you know, jam with my whole hospitality vibe. Get back to Washington, because I was in Orange County, it was just so expensive. And like, I’m not, I’m not going to be able to. I’m just, it’s going to be prohibitive for me to try to start a business with no money, right. And I just didn’t, I didn’t have I don’t know, I just, I didn’t think like, Oh, I’m just gonna go out and borrow what I need to get started here in this environment. I’m like, I just got to go. So I came back to Washington, I started that I started baking. And then I was then I started thinking about what I was going to do beyond that. And that’s when I was like, okay, cookies. My last name is Baker.

Diana Fryc 13:19

And it was written in the stars. It was

Erin Baker 13:21

in my mom used to make us this oatmeal cake. And we were young. Yeah. And she put all the brown bananas in it, because we wouldn’t eat brown bananas. Right? My brother had to say about Brown. Yeah, so and she’d be like, okay, here, take this and don’t come back for like three hours. You know, she pushed us outside. Really take it. Yeah. Like, well, we lived out the sticks, you know. So she, she gives us this oatmeal cake. And it was so filling and so satisfying. We just nibble on it be outside for hours and hours and hours. So that’s when I got the idea. And I got that factoid of like 45 million Americans. And there were all these coffee drive throughs in Washington. Yes. Yeah. And they were serving. They were serving Costco muffins, and white bagels. And they were always like, tightly wrapped in plastic. Yep. I don’t like it all sweaty. And I’m like, Okay, you. Yeah. And that muffin is a giant 800 Calorie piece of cake. Right? It is. It’s not the word muffin like, makes people think it’s healthy. It’s not right. So I saw the opportunity there. I saw the need and the statistic. I took my experience that I had, and the inspiration I just went boom, let’s go. Wow. So I started baking. So I started baking it this little pizzeria that I was I was running to Bed Breakfast. I was waiting tables at night. Because it was just down the street. It was easy. Yeah, you know, yeah. And then I’m like okay, I’m gonna start baking so they started at the at the pizzeria and that quickly went away because they needed to say so that’s When I went to the four h kitchen, which is kind of in my history, I remember seeing, I’m like, wait a minute, the county fairgrounds has kitchens, and they’ve got proof because people are making food their friends. Okay. So I went to the office and like, Hey, hi. Here’s my idea. And they’re like, Sure, why not? Now, how much do you want to pay?

Diana Fryc 15:22

But oh, that’s so funny. So it’s like for each kitchen became a commissary.

Erin Baker 15:26

Yes, yes. Because it was like, it was like a mirror. It was like two home kitchen. So I had two ovens, two racks and four racks. Oh, my God had four racks to work with. I had a bunch of counterspace. And so funny because there was like a half wall and the wrestling team was like working out on the other side of that wall. In this giant building. It was so great. So that’s how it all started.

Diana Fryc 15:49

Wow. Wow, that’s crazy. I I have a really weird, small, small world question for you. Did you go to school with Kristin Sherline? She were on Orcas Island. Kristen. And she’s our age. That doesn’t ring a bell for you.

Erin Baker 16:09

Doesn’t ring a bell? No, I was not I wasn’t orcas until I was an orchestra from? Oh, let’s see. 7978 1978 to 1983.

Diana Fryc 16:25

Okay, so I think then you guys pass because she was there in the

Erin Baker 16:31

late 80s. Yeah, I mean, I bet people I know know her. Yeah. Oh, I’m sure

Diana Fryc 16:36

it’s all working. And yeah. And now Oprah owns like, 40% of the island. You know?

Erin Baker 16:43

We never see her.

Diana Fryc 16:44

I know, when I heard that. She bought some property. I was like, I’m sure it’s investment. Because why in the hell would she come out there? She’s got 800 other properties. But no, it’s gorgeous. Oh, why not? Yeah. So

Erin Baker 16:56

magical out there. Yeah. Okay, I

Diana Fryc 16:58

just thought maybe we that would have been a really crazy little connection there. But

Erin Baker 17:02

there’s probably something else? I’m sure. Well, under fit? Well, we

Diana Fryc 17:07

will. Well, so here you you started this brand. And, you know, we’re talking about 30 years, and many of the people that I I you know, I interviewed different people at different phases of their, their professional life, some people have been working or working for mass CPG. A lot of the entrepreneurs that I’ve been working with, with the exception of like, the Cynthia Tyson or the Kelly block SS who have been in, you know, in the business for, you know, I think Cynthia started in the late 70s. Kelly block is the CEO of ecos. But she took over her father’s business, which started in the 70s. You know, the company goes through lots of changes. And when you are in the leadership, founder ownership, you know, do you feel like what you started to do and what you’re doing now and what you want to do in the future are the same or similar or have things changed?

Erin Baker 18:04

Yeah, my mission, laser focused, um, it grows, you know, but everything that everything that grows out of that laser focused mission is related to the mission, which is getting healthier food to the masses. What’s What changes is society rolled. And that’s what makes you an agile business. Yeah. Staying inspired, remaining inspired and stoking that fire within? through the ups and downs. Is is, is the

Diana Fryc 18:42

is the challenge. Yeah. Got it.

Erin Baker 18:44

Because it’s so easy. It’s so easy to be like, who? This is hard. And, you know, we all know that. That the ER in us, unfortunately, overtakes the unicorn in us. You know what I mean? Like, that’s the, this is so hard feel so much heavier than the lightness? Most times? I’m so inspired. Yeah. So it’s, you know, I think that’s the biggest challenge when you’re driving a mission forward and need to keep it laser focused. Yeah,

Diana Fryc 19:13

yeah. Well, and I think part of this laser focus is this kind of this. We started talking about this when we were preparing for this. Preparing for our time together. Today, we we spent a bit of time talking about natural ingredients and flavors versus natural. I’m using air quotes for those of you that are listening, and there was a little bit of inspiration from the Ellsberg conversation, where you kind of were really on fire about this is an important part of your mission, this ingredient credibility. Why you spend why is this such an important part for you and why do you spend so much time educating consumers about these differences?

Erin Baker 19:58

Well, it definitely goes back to my mission. You know the why. And that is to get truly honest, healthy food out to people. And I’ll preface this by you know, as for all of us, when we know better we do better. Yeah, you know. And, you know, my intention when I started my company was to make something really healthy. And I was armed with what I was marinated in as child, which was eat whole food, you know, don’t eat margarine, eat butter, eat whole food, you know, sugar is fine. Just eat it as a treat, not as you know, something you eat five times a day. So I made the healthiest product. But you know, within my own, you know, scope of knowledge, I made the healthiest product that I that I could. And as the years went on, you know, first the gluten free thing came up. Yeah, that was like, probably, really, really started to catch fire, like, Oh, 405 2004 2005 2006. And at the time, I was married, and my ex husband was part of my business. And he was really attached to the belief that gluten free was not going to stick. And I was okay. Yeah. Well, and he’s, you know, his passion wasn’t food. So yeah, right. Yeah. So well, he’s not here anymore.

Diana Fryc 21:32

Oh, so let’s tell you that part of the business.

Erin Baker 21:36

Yes, yeah. He’s not part of the business anymore. But his but his but his view. And so what it was something that as a company, we made a decision not to not to really latch on to. So the next thing that came up was when we went to acquire Non GMO Project verified certification, okay. And we were doing all this, you know, all this work to get ready for this. And, you know, really a part of that is really seeing the transparency of where your ingredients come from, because that’s all about non GMO, it’s just tracing back to the single source ingredient, you know, right down to the soil. Yeah. And there was one ingredient in particular, that was like, Ha, this doesn’t add up. And it was natural flavoring. And I’m using air quotes, for those of you that are listening, natural flavoring. And there was no explanation of like, okay, it’s grown in this soil. And it’s this ingredient, or, you know, they’re cranberries, but they’re tossed in canola oil and cane sugar. And then the canola oil comes from here. And the cane sugar comes from here. It was like natural ingredients. Or I’m sorry, natural flavoring. Yeah. And I’m like, oh, so what’s it? And so then I went to like, Okay, what’s the what’s the, you know, what statement for what’s in natural flavoring? And all I could ever find, and this is still what they say to this day. Yeah, folks. Again, it’s a proprietary blend of plant based ingredients. Yeah. So if you were a consumer, you’d be like, okay, cool. We’re cool. Sounds good. a proprietary blend of plant based ingredients. That sounds that sounds pretty healthy, right? Yeah. So then I’m like, wait a minute. So everybody, every other ingredient that we use in the world has to say, okay, these almonds were grown in the soil, right? And the natural flavoring companies, that’s all they have to say. That’s, that’s all they have to disclose. So I started doing more research. And as I got even five minutes in 10 minutes and 15 minutes, and I was like, oh, no, oh, no, no, no, this is not natural at all. This is I mean, at best, it’s highly suspect and question. Yeah. At worst. It’s really, really, really bad. Yeah. So I’m like, I’m out. I’m gonna stop using now. Because I know better now. And at the very least, I mean, I don’t know. I mean, the information stream is set up so that we don’t know. But yes, at least what I don’t know. I can’t move forward with this. And that decision was based on my integrity as a human being. And the fact that I stand on the fact that I won’t, I won’t make it if I won’t eat it. And so the challenge, I didn’t really, I didn’t really think about this at the time, and I’m glad I didn’t. I mean, I guess it shows my level of commitment is that it puts us at a great competitive disadvantage. Do you think so? Absolutely. Without a doubt, okay. And I’ll explain. Yeah, like, I can’t get that look on your face.

Diana Fryc 24:39

Well, yeah, I mean, I want to hear I mean, I want to hear it and I think other people want to hear it too.

Erin Baker 24:44

Yeah. Okay. And here’s a great example. So when people you know, we sell a lot of cookies and granola on Amazon, and that I consider that kind of, um, you know, the bell curve audience which are the The abundance of consumers that are eating, you know what most people eat in this country. So, you know, I look at the reviews a lot, because it tells us a lot. And you know, a lot of people have complaints about the fact that our products don’t taste like anything. You know, they’re totally tasteless. And usually it’s about like the Peanut Butter Granola. Well, it’s about a lot of it’s about all of our products in general. But But peanut butter and chocolate in particular. Gotcha. And so we have conversations with these people. And we ask them, you know, what, what peanut butter Do you usually eat? And they say, you know, JIFF or Skippy? Oh, sure. And loaded with sugar and salt. It’s loaded with sugar and salt and hydrogenated oil? And in most cases, natural flavoring. Uh huh. So, if you think about all the products that have natural flavoring, everything from your child’s Gilbert, yeah, to everything, every single product out there, with the exception of a very small few, utilizes natural flavorings, even in products that aren’t even indicating that there is a flavor, which is an even more highly suspect, right? What Why is it in there, it’s to make it taste better, or to make it taste more appealing to the consumer. So basically, we’re out there saying, Hey, we’re using, you know, roasted nuts to, you know, to develop more flavor, we’re toasting our coconut, we’re using, you know, we’re going to great lengths to scale on our production line. Yeah, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, white pepper, and killed them to my pumpkin spice instead of using pumpkin spice flavoring, right. So it puts us at a great disadvantage, because the American palate is right habituated and addicted to natural flavor.

Diana Fryc 26:53

Yeah, and that is, I was just thinking that in my head, you know, my parents are immigrants. And growing up, we didn’t have a lot of CPG in our, in our home. And to be fair, in the 70s and 80s, CPG was not the dominant was it was really growth burgeoning. Up and coming. Yeah, and, and my mom made everything from scratch, I mean, just about everything, except for bread, which we got from a baker, you know, our bread came from a baker, we didn’t buy it from the grocery. And all of the flavor profiles that I grew up with were much milder for lack of a better description, and we would have we would bring chips into the house every once in a while. And it would be like getting up a face punch, you know, the sodium that was in it. Now, like, habituated is the right word. Now I’m accustomed to that. And, and so are my kids. You know, I I’m, I’m ashamed to say this well, but I’m ashamed to say this one thing, but it is what it is my son who is growing like a weed and the doctors just like let him eat whatever he wants. We go through goldfish like there’s no we should have stock, frankly in goldfish in Pepper, Pepperidge Farm, I think or I’m not sure who owns them now. But he puts salt on his goldfish. That’s because goldfish are actually not very salted compared to everything else. Sorry. I completely, completely understand the POV. And I completely understand I understand what you’re saying about the challenge and meeting the American consumers flavor expectation, which I also think is hilarious that you can have a product like kale chips, you know, Brad from, you know, 15 years ago, and have that be. That was not a big flavor push either. And yet now the way people consume kale chips is with dusting. Yeah, there’s coatings on on all Yeah, no,

Erin Baker 28:53

absolutely. Yeah. You know, and then just to finish up the thought, when you asked about how do I, you know, I go to great lengths to educate my consumer about this. Actually, we don’t, and here’s why. They’re not ready for it yet. We’re like, so again, absolutely. Okay. I’m gonna tell you why. Okay, well, we’ll talk about this probably even more after this podcast, because that’s something that I want to talk to you about. Yeah. Okay. So when we’re ready to talk about it, we’ll have a lot to talk about. Great. Basically, I’ve always been ahead of, of the curve. So I’m ahead of this curve. And I know that but really, the challenge is, is that when I talk to people about this, the first thing out of their mouths is well wait a minute, it says natural. But I thought it was natural. Right? And then and then I try to explain that like how I explained it to you and they’re like oh, yeah, says it’s but it says it’s natural. Yeah, it’s complicated. And I say and then I say but hey, listen, understand this natural is an unregulated, it’s a marketing tool. Yeah, it’s not it means nothing. Nobody is held to a standard when using the word natural. Yeah. Which which confuses them even more, because then they’re like, well, then how can the flavoring company use the word natural ingredient deck when that’s supposed to be the single source of truth? Yeah, I’m like, see? Do you see where I do you see what I’m saying here? Yeah, totally. It’s like this insanity loop. So it’s very hard to explain why it’s hard to explain to an average consumer that is just, you know, like, I was one, like, what says naturally should trust the FDA? Right? So well,

Diana Fryc 30:37

and I also think of, you know, when I think of like, my goldfish example, and I’m thinking about Erin’s, and you know, one of the biggest things that I am trying to do with this podcast in the naturals community is kind of elevate like, see, if we’ve got people who are on the spectrum that are eating, whatever they’re eating for breakfast, whether it’s sugary cereal, or door, or paddle tarts or doughnuts or bagels, and in all in moderation, there’s nothing wrong with any of them,

Erin Baker 31:07

not just moderation.

Diana Fryc 31:11

But if that is what you’re accustomed to, or habituated to, or you know, insert your term here, to get from there to an Erin Baker is a journey, like we have to kind of like go okay, we’ll get them to granola, which, depending on the granola isn’t that much more healthier than a sugar cereal. But from a mindset standpoint, for the consumer, it’s a movement towards healthier and I think that’s really the big push here is like to not to shame anybody for eating or for eating goldfish, and just kind of going on the in the spectrum of health. You know, where does it where does it fit? And then how do you moderate it and know that you need the Erin Baker’s products as much as you know, for? Especially in fur? Coat? Yeah, right? Yeah. past couple of years of COVID, go and get yourself a Haagen Dazs ice cream, just don’t eat a gallon a day.

Erin Baker 32:02

Yes. Well, and it’s a great point about you know, the whole shaming thing. Like, the thing is, is that we want people to come towards us, right? Right, we want people to open up to us and right, learn this in leadership. And, and this is, this is who I am as a human being, you know, but in leadership, your ultimate goal is, is to have the person sitting across from you to be open to Yes. And that’s been, you know, related to the challenge of, of the messaging of this very topic is what we eat, what we use on our bodies will be easy and very personal and very intimate decision. And right, when we start talking about that, being defensive, is usually, you know, a pretty typical response, I forget for all of us, or at least being on the defense because what we eat is like, this, what I love this, you know, right, and there’s one this

Diana Fryc 33:03

right, well, and there’s usually a personal tie, just like you with your cookies to your childhood, usually, some of those foods have a personal connection to a path. Exactly

Erin Baker 33:12

Exactly. So really thinking about, you know, the emotions attached to this topic. That’s another reason why I haven’t come out, you know, right. You know, guns blazing, because

Diana Fryc 33:22

right, what’s that?

Erin Baker 33:23

What’s that gonna do? It’s gonna Brian just gonna push people away. Yeah, so we decided a long time ago, me my business partner. You know, Rob, and I decided, you know, we’re not going to talk about what other people are doing. We’re not going to say, hey, you should do this. We’re just going to talk about why we did, what we do what we do and what and what it means to us. Yes, yep. Yeah, that’s, and that’s and that’s And hey, if you want if you want to try these come on over, you know, just that simple.

Diana Fryc 33:54

Yeah. Well, a lot. So then along that same line, you know, wanting to know what the ingredients are. And that commitment to entering into the A need state or day part that has a really big need state even still with a consumer. You you’ve opted to manufacture your your own products, you own your own equipment, and we have found working with entrepreneurs that there’s it’s there’s a really strong opinion for commands or owning the manufacturing. Why is it important for you and why is it important for Erin’s to control the manufacturing at this time?

Erin Baker 34:35

Well, I would just say number one, making food for people live in a literal sense is in my DNA. That is that is that is the the impetus and the love or the impetus and the core of who I am as a human being. Gotcha is is is is is creating food and sharing it with people it literally I’ve goosebumps when I say that. So So and we know we’re on the right track when our skin tingles, right? Yeah. And so, um, you know, beyond that. I think that, and this applies to all of us, when we get disconnected with our food, when we get disconnected with anything. Yeah, um, say, you know, say, you know, you’re working remotely, right. And you haven’t seen your buddies that you work next to in the office for six months, you’re disconnected. And they’re out of sight, out of mind. And I think with, for me, it was just very, very important to stay connected to the food. It keeps us it holds us accountable. I keep my eye on the ball amount on the production floor. That way, I’m seeing my people that are making the product, and all of that energy and all that magic just continues to flow and be dynamic and ends up in what you’re eating. And, you know, I’m a baker. Yeah.

Diana Fryc 36:06

Yeah. Yeah. It’s so funny. It reminds me of a conversation that I had with Christy Goldsby of Honey, Mamas. Yeah. Her connection to wanting to be close to the consumer. I get it. I get it. I get it.

Erin Baker 36:22

Yeah, I think I kind of see myself as kind of like a, a mother of many. I don’t have I don’t have biological, I don’t have children. And I, you know, when I stopped that pursuit, because, you know, I was challenged with infertility in my 30s and tried for a long time and sorry, that’s okay. You know, like, it’s, it’s, it was my journey. And I’m, I’m actually I just decided I’m just going to become the mother of many. And that’s, that’s when I started the Boys and Girls Clubs program. Ah, well, I’m gonna put my mom energy everywhere. And yeah, in the beginning, it all came from mom energy came from my mom, like, Hey, here’s something help you. And I’m putting I’m putting my whole being into this for you just like you do as a mom.

Diana Fryc 37:17

Oh, man, that is so. That’s so awesome. Erin, my jam girl. It’s your jam. Girls mic. I love it. Oh, man, I love that. So, so much, you know, I I have, you know, I no surprise to anybody that knows me or has been listening. I’m an extrovert, and everybody becomes part of my community. When I meet you, when we talk, you’re part of my community. And I have many friends who have been unable to have children and I have many friends who decide not to have children. And my heart always had, I have a little bit of softness for my friends, like yourself that that had a desire. And, and the magic that usually happens around that is they I noticed become community builders in their own way. They either adopt their family, like formally adopted family or they create a family, right by, you know, efforts like this, like the Boys and Girls Club. So as that’s one of my was my on my questions. You know why the Boys and Girls Club? And you’ve answered it, this is your community. This is these are your kids?

Erin Baker 38:29

Yeah. Well, it starts with the kids and, you know, kids, children rely on us adults to show them the way. And so I decided I gotta start at the at the foundation and build up. I’m starting with kids, but I don’t think I’m going to end with kids. I think it’s going to it’s going to expand my support. So after I decided to, you know, stop trying stop throwing bad money after good. I could, whatever they call that money afterwards or whatever. Yeah. It just wasn’t, you know, I mean, you get to a point where you’re like, Okay, this is not supposed to be happening. Yeah, having to push this way too hard. Yeah. And I decided I’m going to go help other people’s kids. So I went to the Boys and Girls Clubs here in my local town and just kind of looked around and assessed. And what I saw was a bunch of little kids running around. flocking around the vending machines. Yeah. And just, you know, say like, 10 kids at the vending machine, and like, maybe someone’s like, I’ve got $1 I’ve, oh, wait a minute. I’ve got 50 cents. I got $1. And they’re they’re feeding the vending machine. Yeah, it unchecked. Right. I’m like, where are the adults here? Well checked. Right? And so at the time there was this fellow that was the director and he was an older gentleman and I said, So, and he knew who I was. And I told him why I was there. You know, I’m like, hey, I want to help. And I want to just kind of be here and observe, and just kind of see where I might see the need. And I said, you know, what’s going on with your food situation here? And he said, Well, we get we get lots of donations. And he said, basically, it’s kind of what falls off the back of the truck or Yeah, or pop tarts or whatever. Yeah. I was horrified when I heard down. And he said, we don’t really have a food program. I’m like, and I said, Well, you’ve got kitchen right there. And he said, Well, yeah, but it, you know, it takes money and effort and time to to do that. And it’s like, we’ve got the vending machines. And, you know, we’ve got we just kind of fill in, you know, food is food isn’t our folks. education, sports? Mentoring? Yeah, that’s, I get it. That way. Yeah. Well, the well, largely they’re having to be parents, right. For for children that are, you know, in single home, single parent, single parent homes, where parents are working 12 hours a day, you know, including their commute. I mean, it’s just, it’s hard. Yeah. So I said, Lin, um, how about if I start bringing breakfast cookies to the club, and I’m live, he literally looked like he was about to cry. And I’m like, I’m like, I’ll bring some I’ll go to the bakery right now. So that was 12 years ago. And like you said, today, we’re almost at a million cookouts. And it’s, it’s been such an incredible journey, because I’ve seen you know, the cool thing about doing something over a long period of time is you start to see the data points, right. You see, you actually see the move. Yeah. And I’ll give you an example of I’ll give you a story of, of a young woman that I was asked to be a judge for Youth of the Year, a couple of years ago for Boys and Girls Clubs in Seattle. And it was such an amazing experience. My business partner who grew up through the Boys and Girls Clubs here in Bellingham, and his mother was a single mom, teacher. And so Rob went to the Boys and Girls Clubs as a child, so he was on the board at the time, okay. And he said to me, you’re not he said, you haven’t. You haven’t had a lot of interaction with Boys and Girls Clubs, staff and organization. I’ve had a lot of interaction with kids and, but not like with the organization on the whole in terms of working with them and collaborating with them. So this experience of being a judge, you know, there was a lot of kind of working with them and collaborating with them. And they are the most amazing people because they are literally raising our children. And so this young woman, Addison was one of the one of the finalists, she was from the Olympic Peninsula. Her parents were drug addicts, or they were addicted to drugs. She was couchsurfing at 14. And basically, she found the club and the club became her. Her home for focus her center, it kept her her feet on the ground. And she continued to catch her through high school, and the club was her youth center. Okay, she walked up to me and she said,

your cookies saved my life. Your cookies saved my life. I always had them in my backpack. I had them when I was out in the cold. And I had nothing to eat. I had them when a school had them for soccer practice. I had them when I was on the couch crying myself to sleep. And she said, and I had you, you’re so inspiring to me. And she won, by the way. She did. She did. Now she’s going to Washington State University. I mean, she’s the most amazing young woman, but I hear I get stories like this all the time. And then the other thing that we’re that we’re experiencing when I talk about data points, is we’re seeing you know, my whole thing was, let’s get these kids used to oats and prunes, right? Because the cookies are sweet with cream puree on your ah, so the number one ingredient is oats. The number 3/3 ingredient is prune puree. And so most kids want things that are chewy things that don’t taste like nuts and twigs, right, you know, they don’t want crust. They don’t want. They don’t want crunch. They don’t know that. They don’t. Yeah, they don’t. And so I’m like, we’ve got to get these kids eating whole food again, because they’re all used to eating crunchy crackers and crunchy cookies. That’s just like sugar and flour and oil. So I was my, you know, my evil plan was was let’s re habituate their taste buds. Yeah. So like the first couple of years are like Yeah, you know, we could we could tell they were like, you know, cuz it was like, you know, each club got an allotment of cookies, yeah, every month and it’s like, oh, we have cookies leftover, you know. And so over the years, no cookies leftover, we need no cookies left. And the food programs have improved Oh, initially at the Boys and Girls Club. So it’s all kind of come together. And I’m proud to say that we’ve made a lot of progress at 18 clubs here that we contribute to. And as our sales increase, we just we just find the next club and start shipping of cookies. So so that that’s that’s the program. I mean, it’s very simple. It’s the only marketing we do. I mean, the only marketing we do is we make sure that, you know, when you go to the grocery store, you can find our products on sale, because that money comes from us not from the grocer. Right, and, you know, mark down at retail, and then the Boys and Girls Club. So our our give our give is our marketing program. And when I first started working with Rob, he’s like, why are you talking about this? Right? I don’t know. I just don’t have time. Time. And well, we’ll talk about it when it’s meaningful to talk about it. I’m doing it because it’s the right thing to do.

Diana Fryc 46:19

Right. I get it. I totally get it. That’s, that’s the whole story. Wow.

Erin Baker 46:26

Let me let me just add one more thing. Yes. So when our country came our world and our country came to the boiling point in June of 2020. With BLM, yeah. It was a really intense time for everybody. And we were we were not, you know, that was not lost on us. We’re really in it. And we wanted, our response was very important. Yeah. And at the time, we had this lovely, lovely gals, Simone, my aura working here. And her father’s black and her mother is white. And you know, for about 48 hours, we were like, Okay, how, how are we going to respond to this? What are we going to do? And Simone just said, I know how we should respond to this. And she said, I think we need to start adding books to the Boys and Girls Club. Give. Oh, so we are sending 18 books each month to the Boys and Girls Clubs about unity about you know, diversity, about acceptance about universal love. Hmm, highlighting black authors, just educating kids about all of that. And it has been. It’s been it’s been a wonderful experience. It’s been well received, and it’s just the beginning of what we’re doing. But it you know, we’re not only feeding the kids minds, we’re feeding bodies. We’re feeding their minds and our hearts as well.

Diana Fryc 48:07

Yeah. Yeah. Totally. Totally doing that. That’s, that’s big. That’s big work. Like it’s it’s just all big work. And it’s absolutely necessary. Yeah. And particularly, you know, Bellingham. For those people that aren’t familiar with the Northwest Bellingham has always been sort of like this little hidden gem north of Seattle by two hours. It has been growing in credibly fast over the growth pains, is a lot of people are moving from Seattle to Bellingham, because it’s first of all beautiful. But job opportunities, because businesses are are up there, but it’s still kind of rural ish. There is a university there, but it’s not incredibly diverse. Not

Erin Baker 48:58

it’s not it. No, it’s not incredibly diverse. And it’s not a huge city. No, I think maybe, you know, we’ve got 100,000 in the city limits. Right. And then there’s the county, but it’s still it’s still a small town.

Diana Fryc 49:09

Yeah. And still kind of feels it still feels on the smaller side. But so to be making those kinds of efforts to the communities where the representation isn’t there, I think is incredibly powerful. I think that’s great. Thank you for doing that.

Erin Baker 49:24

Yeah, yeah. You don’t know it. Thank you for thanking me. But when I tell people, you don’t have to thank me because it is my duty and ability.

Diana Fryc 49:33

I understand. Yeah. But I also know that people don’t make those choices and in you and your company are making that choice. So that’s where the things falls. Well, so 29 years of ups and downs, entrepreneurial ups and downs and COVID has come along. I’m curious how you and the company are navigating it and how are you keeping everybody motivated?

Erin Baker 50:01

Yeah. Well, I thought I thought on that one for a while, actually. And it really boiled down to, again, going back to leadership. We found ourselves in a position where we really had to contract our supply chain was, was greatly interrupted in terms of the all of the supplies and ingredients it takes to make what we make. And the supply chain of finished goods from our dock to the shelf was disrupted greatly as well. We also lost all of our airline business, all of our food service,

Diana Fryc 50:43

oh my goodness.

Erin Baker 50:44

So it was a very, it was a very, very challenging time for us. So there was a lot of contraction. And just hunker down, and let’s navigate through this, and I can say that the most, the single most important thing that I focused on was leadership, and connecting, connecting with everybody in the bakery every day, and 1000 people helping people feel safe. And, and, and being really transparent, like, I’m scared to. Yeah, but you know what, we’re here in the bakery. And we’re safe in here. And we’re gonna get through this together. And I think that was, that was the biggest single contributor to us getting through. And in keeping people motivated. We, I don’t even know how we did it. I don’t even know how it’s possible. But we didn’t have single case of COVID in the building. Wow. Fantastic. Yeah, not a single case of COVID in the building. I’m so proud of everybody here because I think people really just took it seriously. Yeah, again, it I think it also speaks to my point of the leadership of it’s safe in this building. And I think yeah, went to great lengths to keep that safety and, and have this this home base of safety. Well,

Diana Fryc 52:04

I that’s really great, this kind of leadership component. And knowing where that role that your role is not only to help guide people, but then also to be honest about how you’re feeling. And you know, when I’m thinking about this, I have this question. And I suspect because you’ve been running errands bakery for errands, well, do you go buy the whole name,

Erin Baker 52:31

the whole just Baker’s just called Baker’s, okay, so,

Diana Fryc 52:34

alright, so when when you people as you’ve been running bakers, and it’s been evolving as a business, the community in the world has been changing around us. I am sure that entrepreneurs and brand owners connect with you all the time and come to you for advice. Is there something that you’d like to that you find yourself consistently giving? When you’re talking about either starting up a brand or kind of getting through the hurdles of being an entrepreneur, whether it’s your two or your 20? What do you find yourself giving out as advice?

Erin Baker 53:09

I think I think the advice that I’m most qualified to give is, is if you do not bus with joy, when you think about what it is that you’re pursuing, your you want, you will find it very challenging to sustain your business long. Yeah. You know, if that’s your if you want to grow, if you want to create this brand, you know, bootstrap it. Yep. sustain it, get it out there make something of it. If you do not bus with joy, think about that process and about what you’re you know, then you won’t you won’t have the juice to make it through the inevitable peaks and valleys. Scott of business. Yeah. Totally. That’s, I think that’s like, the best advice that I could give. Because that’s what I know. Right? I I never, you know, I my advice is basically based on on my own experience, so I just share, share kind of what I was important for me. But I do know that that that intangible magic that drives us forward, we’re doing something that comes from within is is what I say the fuel, the juice that gets you through the inevitable difficult challenges of being business. Okay, okay.

Diana Fryc 54:39

Well, if you were to, you know, we’re kind of coming up on the end of our time together, and I have a few questions I’d like to ask one is, if you had if you could wave your magic wand and change something about our industry, what would it be and why? Um, I mean, I know, I know, I know, I do know another podcast. I know what it

Erin Baker 55:06

is, I’m just trying to, I’m just trying to crystallize try to make a very simple statement. I think the food supply needs to be healthier. Yeah. And, and and how that happens, I’m unsure about because, yeah, as long as you have giant forces at work, like commodities, and and, you know, you know, publicly held traded held companies and giant companies with, you know, with everything being decided by profits, for the most part. I don’t see how, you know, I mean, our food supplies become healthier, because the consumer has demanded it, not because the government has said, Hey, I think I think we need to really put some focus on this, right. It’s all driven by consumer demand. So what I would love to see is, and again, I don’t I don’t want to say that people aren’t doing enough in general, as you know, it’s by taking responsibility for their health. But what I would say, if I could, a message could land on just a person, I could say that the only way you’re going to eat healthier is if you do it yourself. You can’t rely on the FDA, and food companies to guide you in the right way. You have knowledge, knowledge is power. And that is how we’re going to change the world.

Diana Fryc 56:46

Yeah. The FDA is a tricky one, because, of course, it was set up to protect us consumers. And I think that there is some validity they do there is.

Erin Baker 56:59

Yeah, well, they, they set the guidelines, but their focus is keeping people from dying, not keeping people from, you know,

Diana Fryc 57:08

I mean, really great distinction. Yeah, there. Yeah. So it was tiny distinction.

Erin Baker 57:12

I quote, I’m quoting my FDA inspector, you know, he’s like, Listen, you know, the labeling all that stuff? Yeah, it’s a big part of what we do. But primary focus is to make sure that we don’t have to count ecoli and Listeria and salmonella. Yes, they’re killing 1000s of people. So it really goes back to people just educating themselves little by little. And when we know better, we do better. And then we vote with our dollar.

Diana Fryc 57:42

Yep. Absolutely. Yeah. Yes. And that is such a great distinction there so that people understand, like, people in our industry, you know, and when you’re working for, you know, if you’re working for a multinational, and you’re really far away from those kind of what the FDA is, and we’re all smart here, but we also are all very busy. And sometimes you forget Oh, the FTAs job is actually blank. Oh, oh, well, then it makes sense why it looks like this and smells

Erin Baker 58:12

like this. Exactly. Love it. I mean, I just you know, we have to just fill in the blanks and and luckily, it’s easier than ever with Yannick, you know. Yeah. So, or harder, or harder. But, you know, if you look at enough things, right, if you know, enough data points, you can That’s true. You can, you can come to your own conclusion. Yes.

Diana Fryc 58:31

That’s that’s a big ask for the, for the modern American right now is to spend that much time educating they like we I should say we, we like quick, quick analysis, quick summaries. Yeah,

Erin Baker 58:45

I know. Well, that’s a good summary right here. Yeah, I agree. Well, tell me um, that last question. I want to answer the last question. The one about well, maybe it wasn’t the last one. When you said Are there any leaders that are

Diana Fryc 58:59

in Oh, yeah. Well, yes, yes. So let’s see, are there any women? It could be men too, that that are inspiring that you that you simply want to acknowledge or elevate for the work that they’re doing? Who would that be and why?

Erin Baker 59:14

So I’m going to blend your question about trends industry to industry trends, and okay, together. Got so I just I know, I know, I’m a little late on this read, but I just read

Diana Fryc 59:27

oh my gosh, I just picked that up. Okay, I literally picked that up yesterday.

Erin Baker 59:31

Okay, girl, get ready to have your mind blown. Um, really, what I what I’d like to say is I’m very inspired by Glennon Doyle. Okay. I’m inspired by a lot of women but I’m just gonna, I’m just gonna talk about her because I’m just finishing this book. I’m, every woman should read this book.

Diana Fryc 59:50

Well, Ted, just for the people that are listening, what’s the name of it?

Erin Baker 59:53

It’s called Untamed? Yes. Okay. And she has three books. This is her last book. I’m now going to get her other books but you Essentially, the trend that I’m inspired by is the trend that just is the most inspiring to me because again, it’s starting at the foundation is that is is more focused on the equality for all human beings. And in particular women in this case, when Glennon Doyle is a lightning rod for this movement, and her her way her approach her delivery, her writing, shares her, shares her message, in a way that makes it safe for all of us to be exactly who we are. Yeah, that is, and that is where our power is. Yeah, we have been taught societally to be quiet, to be demure, you know, to be, you know, to not speak up, to sit back to let the man handle it. And that needs to be undone. Because when we all realize our true power, we’re much All human beings are much more powerful and unified. And Glennon Doyle is a lightning rod for this message, huh? Love and, and she, and she does it by being so completely raw and authentic. And talking about just what we would all perceive is talking about ourselves, like the ugliest parts of ourselves. Yeah, like, oh, I can’t talk about that. Yeah, but no, she puts it all out there and makes it safe for all of us to tie. And in our, in our, in our perceived weaknesses and ugly parts. They’re not ugly and weak. It’s just a part of us. Yeah, we start when we acknowledge that, that invites and makes it safe for other women to acknowledge it. Yeah. So I’m very I’m so just buzzing on and pumped about Glennon Doyle. She’s a lightning rod. I love for authenticity and honesty, and the trend of quality for all human beings and specifically, women.

Diana Fryc 1:02:08

Love it. I love it. Yeah. Wow. Well, and I know that, you know, you and I are going to go have lunch and probably have more than a lunch, but I say so. Right now. You know, we have been talking with Erin Baker, president and founder of a we’re Erin Baker’s Wholesome Baked Goods, but we will call them now Baker’s

Erin Baker 1:02:29

yeah, we’re just because now it’s just Erin Baker’s, Diana. Erin Baker’s. Okay. Yeah. Yeah. So

Diana Fryc 1:02:35

Erin, if people want to learn about your brand, or you or your giveback programs, where can people find that information

Erin Baker 1:02:42

on our website, or on our Instagram feed? And it’s erinbakers.com? Erin Baker’s on the internet?

Diana Fryc 1:02:50

Oh, my goodness, I want to thank you so much for your time today and the work that you’re doing for for the CPG industry and then also our regional community and getting real food to these families to these kids. And I’m excited to watch what you do next. And, and be there. Yeah, I hope so. We will. Well, thank you so much for your time. Have a great rest of your day, and to everybody as to everybody else. We’ll catch you next time on the good or podcast. Bye everybody.

Outro 1:03:34

We hope you enjoyed this episode. And if you haven’t already, be sure to click subscribe and share with your network. Until next time, be well and do gooder.

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For Diana, a fierce determination to pursue what’s right is rooted in her DNA. The daughter of parents who endured unimaginable hardship before emigrating from Eastern Europe to the U.S., she is built for a higher purpose. Starting with an experience working with Jane Goodall to source sustainably made paper, she went on to a career helping Corporate America normalize the use of environmentally responsible products and materials before coming to Retail Voodoo.

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